In preparing a nation for war, imperial war leaders have to create a visible and highly charged emotional sense of injustice and righteousness to secure national cohesion. Their challenge is to overcome the natural human opposition to early death and the destruction of civilian life.
The need to invent a cause for war is especially important with imperialist countries, because their national territory is not under threat. There is no visible occupation army oppressing the people in their everyday life nor does the "enemy" disrupt normal life.
The task of imperial rulers is to fabricate a world in which the enemy to be attacked is portrayed as an "invader" or "aggressor." Since all US imperial wars are fought overseas - far from any immediate threats, attacks or invasions - US imperial rulers have the special task of making the reasons for war immediate, dramatic and self-righteously defensive.
State provocations require uniform mass media complicity in the lead-up to war, namely the portrayal of the imperial country as a victim of its own over-trusting innocence and good intentions.
All four US imperial wars over the past 67 years have resulted from a provocation and a high-intensity mass media propaganda to mobilize the masses for war. The role of the media is to soften-up the public in preparation for war through demonological writing. Each and every aspect of the forthcoming military target is described as totally evil.
Since the enemy is depicted as totally evil, no process of reform is possible. The defeat of total evil can only take place through total war. The targeted state and people must be destroyed in order to be redeemed and the democracy is converted into a military juggernaut based on mass complicity with imperial aggression.
Back in 2001, most of the US public was concerned with domestic matters - the downturn in the economy, corporate corruption and avoiding any new military confrontation with the Middle East. George W. Bush won the election despite losing the popular vote and there were suspicions of electoral chicanery.
Early in 2001 the bellicose rhetoric from Bush's neocon advisors and their emphasis upon national security was largely falling on deaf ears. The key challenge for militarists in the Bush Administration was how to bring the US public around to support the new Middle East war agenda.
Imperialist leaders know that sneak attacks have been extremely effective as a provocation in the past. They reveal some of their manipulative intentions in the PNAC (Project for A New American Century) document of 1997:
"The process of transformation (of the US Military into an imperialistic force of global domination)," the plan said, "is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor."
Philip Zelikow, a neocon, and executive director and author of the 9/11 Commission Report had written in 1998, with a prescience, which could have only come from an insider, "Like Pearl Harbor, this event would divide our past and future in a before and after. The United States might respond with draconian measures, scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force (torture)".
One of the most important political implications of the US government's resort to provocation to launch imperial wars is that most Americans are opposed to overseas wars. Government lies are necessary to undermine the public's preference for peace.
Peaceful sentiments of the majority can be quickly overturned by the political elite through deception, amplified by constant repetition through the unified voice of the mass media. Peaceful American citizens can be transformed into irrational militarists through propaganda.
False flag attacks have historically been used by many imperialists to create provocations for war. If you think these powerful and greedy war profiteers would never attack their own people to create a proper pretext for war, think again. And if you still really believe that 9/11 was carried out by a boogeyman living in a foreign cave, you probably live in a cave. 9/11 was the new Pearl Harbor.